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Print media inquiry-mr Packer's appearance



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M u MEDIA RELEASE WARWICK SMITH M.P. Shadow Minister for Communications

4 November 1991

Print Media Inquiry - Mr Packer’s Appearance

Attached is Mr Smith's response on behalf of the Coalition on Mr Packer's appearance before the Print Media Inquiry given in an interview on the ABC's PM program this evening.

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P A R L IA M E N T A R Y LIBRARY j M IC A H

4 November 1991

TRANSCRIPT OF MR WARWICK SMITH, MP SHADOW MINISTER FOR COMMUNICATIONS INTERVIEW ON ABC RADIO - 'PM' PROGRAM

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Murphy:

Well the Deputy Chairperson of the Print Inquiry is Liberal Frontbench MP, Warwick Smith. After proceedings broke up today PM's, Fran Kelly, asked Mr Smith what he thought of Kerry Packer's performance.

Smith:

I thought it was an interesting performance, and I underline performance. I think that he acquitted himself well in putting his views. On the broader issue, about whether or not we are yet to determine the matter of who should get Fairfax, the point that has to be made is, that it is not a matter for the Committee to determine this at all, it is a matter for the receiver.

Kelly:

Well Kerry Packer was clearly not happy to be there today. Do you feel like you got the answers you wanted from Mr Packer?

Smith:

Mr Packer, I think was forceful, he was entertaining and he was possessed of a wit that not many had seen before and in that sense it was an interesting performance. But at the end of the day what has to be judged is whether or not the associations, the arrangements that he may or may not have entered into with Mr Black and others constitute "actual control" for the purposes of the Act, that decision is made by the Australian Broadcasting Tribunal, they will have to inquire into it. Mr

Packer's assertions today are basically what this committee hearing was about, the onus will be, of course, on him and his associates to show to the satisfaction of the ABT that they don't contravene the law as it stands now.

Kelly:

At one point he said that you either had to believe him or call him a liar. Did you believe him today?

Smith:

I still remain to be satisfied on the inquiries of the ABT, I withhold judgement because we are having Mr Packer's assertions, I would like the matter to be dealt with by the ABT in the detail that it has to be to make sure that the law, as it

stands now, is not contravened. The interesting thing is that Mr Packer said that he would abide by the law, the law has yet to take its full course. Today was an interesting side show and many of us found it entertaining and illuminating but at the end of the day the process has yet to be finished. If Tourang is chosen they will be going through, most likely, an ABT inquiry if that is deemed to be necessary by

the ABT to determine where actual control lies and that is the issue, and that is the test.

Kelly:

Well of course Kerry Packer made the point again and again today that technically 15% is not a controlling interest and no one could prove otherwise that he had any such control. Neil O'Keefe has said already tonight that the only way to stop Kerry Packer getting the chance of gaining control of Fairfax is to change the law and get rid of the 15%. Would the Opposition support that idea?

Smith:

Well I think Mr O'Keefe is being terribly premature and one of the things that the Labor Party have succeeded in doing is making an absolute mess of the media laws in this country. That is why we have the problems that we are having right now. The whole concept of cross media ownership hasn't led to a greater diversity in ownership, it has actually led to greater concentration in this country. For Mr O'Keefe to be making decisions on the run is typical of what this Government has done and I think it is a shame that he has entered into it right now. It is not a

matter of stopping Packer, it is a matter of dealing with the law as it is now and applying it to this particular situation devoid of concentrating on the personalities, let's deal in basic principles.